US unemployment rate drops to 8.8%-

Updated: 2011-04-01 21:48


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WASHINGTON- The US unemployment rate edged down to 8.8 percent in March from 8.9 percent in the previous month, and nonfarm payroll employment rose by 216,000, the Labor Department reported Friday.

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In March, employment in manufacturing, professional and business services, mining, education and health care continued to rise. However, state and local governments continued to cut jobs.

The American unemployment rate is now at its lowest point since April 2009. It has been falling for four consecutive months, down from 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Private employers, the backbone of the economy, added 230,000 jobs last month after an increase of 240,000 in February. It was the first time private hiring topped 200,000 in back-to-back months since 2006.

The manufacturing sector, which is considered an engine of the economic recovery, added 17,000 jobs in March. Job gains were concentrated in two durable goods industries -- fabricated metal products and machinery. Employment in durable goods manufacturing has risen by 243,000 since its most recent low in December 2009.

The number of those who lost jobs or completed temporary jobs, at 8.2 million, was little changed in March. The total number of unemployed persons decreased by about 200,000 in March to 13.5 million. That is still about double the total that was out of work before the recession began in December 2007.

The report also shows that the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.3 hours, and average hourly earnings for all employees were unchanged at 22.87 dollars. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.7 percent.

Recent data showed that the US economic recovery is strengthening.

According to the latest government data, the US economy grew at 3.1 percent in the forth quarter in 2010, quicker than the 2.6 percent pace in the third quarter of 2010. It was the best quarterly showing since the start of last year. For all of 2010, the economy grew 2.9 percent, the most since 2005.

However, economists believe that the recovery of labor market remains a lingering challenge.

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that although the economic recovery is strengthening, to date, "growth has not been fast enough to bring about a significant improvement in the job market."

"Until we see a sustained period of stronger job creation, we cannot consider the recovery to be truly established," Bernanke said.

Some economists held that the governmental spending downturn was a drag on the broad economic growth, as many private companies in the nation were still cautious about new investments and hiring due to an existing slack of production capacity.


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